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When and how do I sign up for Medicare?

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This information explains the times and ways you can apply for Original Medicare.

You should enroll in Original Medicare when you first become eligible. That's the three months before you turn 65, the month of your birthday and then three months after that.

Note: A Medicare Advantage plan is different than Original Medicare. You can learn more about how they differ on this page. You can enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan after you enroll in Original Medicare.

When to apply for Original Medicare

There are three times when you can enroll in Medicare Part A and Part B, also called Original Medicare. You can enroll:

1. During your Initial Enrollment Period

Your first chance to sign up for Medicare starts three months before your 65th birthday, includes the month you turn 65, and ends three months after the month you turn 65. These seven months are called the Initial Enrollment Period.

For example, if you were born on Aug. 15, your initial enrollment period would start on May 1, include the month of August and then run through Nov. 30.

When you apply during the three months before you turn 65:

  • Your Medicare benefits will start on the first day of the month in which you turn 65. If you're born on the first day of the month, your coverage will start on the first day of the month prior to your birth date.

When you apply during the month of your 65th birthday, or during the three months after:

  • Your Medicare coverage will start one month to three months later, depending on when you enroll.

2. During the General Enrollment Period

If you didn't sign up when you were first eligible, you can sign up between Jan. 1 and March 31 each year. This is called the General Enrollment Period.

When you enroll during this time:

  • Your coverage begins July 1.
  • You may have to pay a higher premium.

3. In a Special Enrollment Period

If you meet certain requirements, you can apply during a Special Enrollment Period.

When you apply during this time:

  • Your coverage starts the month after Social Security gets your completed application.
  • You usually won't have to pay a financial penalty.

How to apply for Original Medicare

If you already get Social Security benefits, you will automatically be enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B three months before you turn 65.

If not, you need to apply through Social Security. Here are the ways to apply:

1. You can apply online.

Start the process on the Social Security website.

2. You can apply over the phone.

To make an appointment, call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778.

3. You can apply in person.

Just visit your local Social Security office. You can find the nearest office by entering your ZIP code in this Social Security office locator.

Note: Medicare plans only cover one person. Even if you and your spouse are eligible to enroll at the same time, you'll each need to get a separate plan.

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Page Last Updated Fri Jul 11 15:51:42 EDT 2014